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What Is Bizcocho?

By H.R. Childress
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bizcocho is a Spanish word that has different meanings in different Spanish-speaking countries. It refers to a type of food in most countries, but bizcocho can have a vulgar meaning in some regions of Mexico. The word refers to a variety of pastries in most countries. It may also refer to a few types of cookies, and the word means cake in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The pastries that are collectively known as bizcocho come in a wide variety of styles and flavors and can be found in most Latin American panaderias, or bakeries, especially in Uruguay and Argentina. Some are flaky breads similar to croissants. Others are filled pastries — the fillings may be sweet or savory. Savory pastries often have cheese or meat as fillings. Dulce de leche, a thick sweet caramel sauce, and dulce de membrillo, or quince jam, are popular fillings for sweet pastries.

Countries in South and Central America typically have their own specialty pastries that are known by the term bizcocho. A popular variety in Uruguay and Argentina is known as alfajores de maizcena, small biscuit-like cakes made with cornstarch. Two of the cakes are filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut flakes to make the alfajores.

Costa Rica's usual bizcocho is a savory version. It is made of corn flour, also called masa, with cheese and spices. The dough is formed into rings and is traditionally baked in clay ovens. These bizcocho pastries have a crunchy texture after baking.

Some types of cookies are also known as bizcochos. Polvorones are a shortbread cookie eaten in both Latin America and Spain. They are made like typical shortbread cookies with butter, flour, sugar, and eggs, and are usually vanilla flavored.

Ojitos, which literally means "little eyes," are popular bizcochos in Uruguay. They are also a shortbread-like cookie, but they have a sweet filling, usually made of quince. Ojitos are sometimes also made in a chocolate flavor.

Though pastel means cake in most Spanish-speaking countries, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic more commonly use bizcocho. The word often refers to the popular or traditional type of cake in each country. In Puerto Rico, bizcocho is a sweet sponge cake with a rich sauce containing condensed milk and evaporated milk, and has cream poured over it — a type of tres leches, or three milks, cake. The word often refers to a tender cake with fruit filling and a meringue-based frosting in Uruguay.

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